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Bloggers go on strike in protest at arrest of Saudi colleague – paper

BBC Monitoring

Text of report in English by Saudi newspaper Saudi Gazette website on 6 January

[Report by Suzan Zawawi, Riyadh: "Bloggers Protest with Silence Today"]

Bloggers in the Kingdom and around the world will be spending most of Sunday [6 January] in silence to protest against the arrested Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan. On Sunday bloggers will not write on their blogs, instead they will post a banner demanding release of Al-Farhan. "The idea to have a day of silence on the global level was made by Esra Shafie, a Bahraini blogger based in Europe," said Ahmed Al-Omran, a blogger known as Saudi Jeans and a good friend of Farhan. "We are trying to spread the word to as many people as we can," said Omran. Omran has also begun an online petition to free Farhan which has more than 424 people sending an email letter to Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Adel Al-Jubair, Saudi Ambassador to the US , Nicholas Burns, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and Ford Fraker, US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Al-Farhan, a 32 year old father of two! , was arrested without charge on Tuesday at his IT company in Jedda. Security forces then raided his home where they sized his laptop. Farhan, one of the few and first Saudi bloggers who write in his real name on his blog alfarhan.org. Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, told agencies that Al-Farhan was jailed "because he violated the regulations of the Kingdom." "He is being interrogated for local law violations," Al-Turki said. "The violation is not a security matter." Al-Turki said he did not believe the blogger would be in detention much longer. "They will get the information that they need from him and then they will let him go," he said. Many Saudis have taken to blogging in the past couple of years. In the Kingdom, it has become a medium to express themselves, their beliefs and communicate their ideas with the world. Blogging has become popular because main stream media does not represent many young Saudis and their opinions, said Omran. A! l-Farhan's arrest has shaken Saudi blogers. "They have become scared a fter Al-Farhan was arrested," said Omran. However, Omran says al-Farhan's arrest did not surprise him because he had been interrogated before, but it did disturb him. "Although we have seen bloggers in Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt arrested and jailed, I thought this won't happen here because Saudi Arabia doesn't usually jail journalists, but ban them from writing," said Omran. It is too early to see whether the arrest of Al-Farhan would have a lasting effect on Saudi bloggers and what they write. "We can't judge yet, after Al-Farhan is released, then we can see whether writers will become cautious in their writings or not." A list of 25 reasons for blogging in Fouad's own words. Why Do We Blog? 1. Because we believe we have opinions that deserve to be heard, and minds that should be respected. 2. Because societies do not progress until they learn to respect opinions of their members. And we would like to see our society progressing. 3. Because blogging is our only option. We do! not have a free media, and freedom to assemble is not allowed. 4. Because we want to discuss our opinions. 5. Because we think. 6. Because we care. 7. Because blogging has had a positive effect on other societies and we want to see the same result in our society. 8. Because blogging is a reflection of the life of society members. And we are alive. 9. Because blogging is gaining increasing attention from media and governments. We want them to listen to us. 10. Because we are not scared. 11. Because we reject the cattle mentality. 12. Because we welcome diversity of opinions. 13. Because the country is for all, and we are part of it. 14. Because we want to reach out to everyone. 15. Because we refuse to be an "echo". 16. Because we are not any less than bloggers in other societies. 17. Because we seek the truth. 18. Because our religion encourages us to speak out. 19. Because we are sick and tired of the Saudi media hypocrisy. 20. Because we are positive. 21. Because bloggin! g is a powerful tool that can benefit society. 22. Because we are affe cted and we can affect. 23. Because we love our country. 24. Because we enjoy dialogue and don't run away from it. 25. Because we are sincere.

Source: Saudi Gazette website, Jedda, in English 6 Jan 08



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